15th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
At this stage of the season, Lucas Perez, who joined Arsenal for a hefty £17 million in the summer from Deportivo La Coruna, would've been hoping he'd have more than a paltry nine starts, of which only two have come in the league, to his name for the Gunners.
It was never going to be easy for him to nail down a starting spot within Arsene Wenger's talented squad. But the fact he's never really been given enough opportunities to prove himself has been difficult for him to swallow.
The man who's impressively scored seven goals at an excellent rate of one every 135 minutes, including a statement hat-trick vs Basel in the Champions League, duly made his feelings felt in a recent interview with La Voz de Galicia, explaining: "This season has been difficult because I think I've deserved to play more. I may not have done as well as others, but if they'd have given me more minutes I'd have produced better numbers: more goals and more assists.
"I've spoken to the coach and he admits as much, but he has his own ideas and I respect that. I'd like more opportunities because I think I deserve them, but I'll have to accept what comes my way."
Frustrating ankle and thigh injuries have hindered his progress to a degree, but his manager's lack of faith in him has been the most detrimental factor in his frustrating season. In Wenger's defence, however, possessing the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott all as viable options for the striking position gives him a tough decision on who to play.
Considering he's actually performed rather well whenever he's played only makes it more depressing for the Spanish forward, which is something Wenger recognises. "Yes, of course (he should've played more). He's a top-quality striker and I couldn't give him the games that he wants and that he deserves. I must confess that," he divulged.
"I feel sorry for him on that front, but we have more strikers available now because we had the situation where Olivier Giroud was not clear at the start of the season. We didn't know when Danny Welbeck would come back and in the end there was a congestion there but that doesn't take anything away from his quality."
Unsurprisingly, his predicament has led to him being linked with a move away from the Emirates in the upcoming summer transfer window. At this stage, if reports are to be believed, it would appear a return to his former club, Depor, seems the most likely scenario.
While Wenger asserted that he'd love to keep him for next season, he conceded that given his circumstances it's unlikely he'll remain at the London club. For Perez, though, he'd relish a move back to Galicia, where he'd be an undisputed starter and where he'd return to being the focal point of the team.
Moving back to La Liga, a league he has an exceptional knowledge of, within the confines of his beloved club should see him able to get back to his domineering best. A lethal finisher and a player who possesses blistering pace and hulking strength, which is complimented by his low centre of gravity, Perez is a menacing proposition for any defensive unit. Parlay the afore with his technical proficiency, intelligent dropping movements and runs into depth, and it's understandable why such a talented operator warrants regular minutes.
His mental strength and never say die attitude, something he's honed during stints playing in Ukraine and Greece, undoubtedly ties in to make him a fantastic footballer on so many levels.
With his Arsenal adventure looking like it's entering its closing stages, an experience that's hard to classify as a failure due to his lack of game time, he can still take heart that he proved to himself that he's more than capable at the highest level. The fact he scored in every competition Arsenal featured in (the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup) is definitely an achievement he can be proud of. With the joy of hindsight, it would've indeed been fascinating to see what sort of numbers he could've compiled had he been afforded more minutes.
After this invaluable learning experience at Arsenal, Perez will certainly be careful where he chooses to play out the next chapter in his fascinating footballing story.
Licence to Roam features more football stories written by Edward.
Will Lucas Perez Head Back to La Liga?
15th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.